Movie Review: Takers

A cast full of hip hop artistes, cardboard actors and a big budget makes a surprisingly enjoyable movie. Forget the plot holes or terrible clichés, you’re not in it for the story, you’re in it for the ride. Takers tells the story of a group of bank robbers who pull off extremely well-planned, high-profile heists- at least that’s what we’re supposed to think. Hot on their trail is Jack Welles (Matt Dillon), a police officer with problems of his own. Fresh out of jail, one of the group’s ex-members, Ghost (T.I.) proposes to them the job of a lifetime- an armored truck containing $12 million. It’s enough for them to stay out of crime forever, and start their lives anew.

When I first saw the trailer from this movie, I knew what to expect- explosions, car chases, gun fights, alcohol, women, and money. The movie has all that, and some more. Right from the get go, the action is on and lets up only for a few scenes in the movie. If you’re looking for an action movie, Takers will not disappoint you.

Heist movies have been done for a very long time now, and what I attracts me about these movies are the planning stages. Like The Italian Job, Oceans, Inception– the recruitment of the team, their specialized roles, and the master plan. Sadly, Takers has none of that. You don’t know what each member is good for, and their plan is as complicated as a math textbook- for kids in primary school. It’s a no-brainer movie.

One problem about movies with too many main characters is that not enough time is spent developing them, and with a movie where the ‘bad guys’ are the protagonists, you don’t feel any connection to them. The characters are rich and don’t look like they aren’t desperate for money. They’re not on the most wanted list (they pulled off all their jobs so well that nobody knows who they are) and they live comfortably. They lack any emotional aspects that allow the audience to connect with them. The only exception being Gordon (Idris Elba), with a half-assed sub-plot of his sister in rehab.

I think in movies like these, you either develop these sub-plots fully, or you don’t include them at all. It just makes the overall movie much weaker. There’s quite a number of story arcs that are left hanging or just felt like they were thrown in for good measure. Like Jack’s backstory- why is he trying so hard to catch the gang? There’s no explanation. I guess he’s just a diligent cop doing his job. The story about his day out with his daughter and his ex-wife (you don’t even see her in the movie) felt incomplete as well. Jack’s partner, Eddie (Jay Hernandez) also has some issues, again, only mentioned in dialog that felt like a half-court ball thrown during the final buzzer beater- there’s not enough time, let’s just shoot and hope for the best. I also didn’t like how they tied up some loose ends- one scene almost made me laugh out loud.

Those issues aside, Takers isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Most of the cast impressed me with their acting chops, and there weren’t any cringe-worthy moments. The story moves forward fluidly, despite being predictable it is entertaining. Don’t let the trailer fool you, these rap stars can act better than you think (I guess starring in music videos does help) and Matt Dillon hasn’t played a cop role like this since.. Crash. I guess that’s why he was chosen to play the cop. The star of the show was Idris Elba- I mean, who doesn’t like a black guy with an English accent? Exactly. Paul Walker does what he does best, and Hayden was surprisingly bearable- he’s come a long way since his days as Anakin Skywalker (and his fedora look should score him some points with the ladies as well).

Takers won’t be taking the place of your favorite heist movie, or be in the running for any Oscars next year, but it should keep adrenaline junkies happy in the meantime. I rate Takers 6/10.

Gig #59: An Honest Mistake album launch and upcoming comic!

This Friday I’ll be performing at An Honest Mistake’s album launch 😀 I’ll be one of the acts on the chill out stage, so come show your love and sing along! I’ve known AHM since they were still doing open mic gigs with Doppelganger, and it’s been an exciting journey to watch them grow into the scene superstars they are right now. So this Friday (22nd) of October, come and support them at their album launch. They’ll be filming a live DVD as well, so scream loud, take off your clothes, you can probably find yourself digitally preserved.

Make sure you head to the event website to sign up for a free pass.

The album launch will be held at:
Multipurpose Hall (CHC Premise) – Opposite Monash University
No. 8, SS 13/6, Subang Jaya, 47500.
Selangor, Malaysia

From the Facebook Event Page:

AN HONEST MISTAKE will be officially launching their Debut Album this October.

Register and Get Your Passes here.

Stay Tuned to find out more on what’s gonna be happening at the event !

Guest Artistes & Bands:

*Main Stage
Rosevelt
Free To Fall
Ash Nair & Band
Dennis Lau

*Acoustic/Chillout Stage
Never Early
Fragments & Frictions
Ariff AB
2storeyheart

Celebrity & VIP Guest Appearance:
*coming soon*

For More Info, you can also log on to
www.anhonestmistakeband.com or follow us on
www.twitter.com/ahmband

And to all those waiting for my EP’s album art, I’m really sorry for the delay, I still haven’t gotten it finished. Blame my busy life + procrastination. Anyway, I recently started drawing again, and I’m going to start publishing my comic online next week. So look out for it. 😀 Here’s a teaser from the first panel of the first page.

Movie Review: Buried

I was supposed to watch this movie with no expectations because I had not watched the trailer and did not know what to expect beyond the premise of Ryan Reynolds buried alive in a coffin. But when I was putting my name on the list, Grace, organizer of the screening told me that the movie scored 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. I was like, “wow, that is high.” I still didn’t know what to expect though. I sat inside the cinema, and they started playing the trailers. The first trailer was for Buried. I mean come on! I’ve never been to a screening where they played the trailer of that very same movie just before the movie. The trailer had some really big statements, something along the lines of “Plot Twists Hitchcock would be proud of”. From that moment on, my expectations just shot through the roof. I was thinking to myself, “this must be one awesome movie.”

This is one of the most daring movies I’ve seen to date. Honestly, a movie that starts off with about a minute of blackness and just sound takes a lot of guts to pull off. The director managed to use enough different shots and angles to make it look interesting without being repetitive. Ryan Reynolds definitely pulls off his best performance to date (forget Deadpool)- the whole movie is just him in a box for about 1.5 hours. Yes, I kid you not. And it managed to hold my attention all the way to the end. I would compare it to the first half of Wall-E where you just have the robot all alone on the planet. Wall-E bored me to death, Buried did not.

But in the end I think my high expectations for the movie ruined my experience. The movie just left me with so many unanswered questions unsolved.

I can’t really review this movie without any spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the movie, skip the next 3 paragraphs:

Spoiler:
When watching the movie, so many questions ran through my head: Why does he need to turn on the lighter when he has the cellphone light? Why does he get so many items in his backpack? The knife felt like it was put there cos the kidnapper knew that he would have to use it. How can his phone make so many calls? Why did service get cut off sometimes? Why did the terrorist agree to lower his ransom of 5 million to 1 million so quickly? Why would they kidnap a truck driver when there were so many more valuable targets. I mean they could find out about his kid and wife, I’m sure they had the resources to find out he was broke.

Why did he have to write so many numbers down if they were saved on his phone? Why didn’t he try changing the language in the first place? What was the significance of the battery meter? The phone never even runs out of battery. The twist felt very weak to me. It never seemed as if he was going to be rescued at all, so when he didn’t get rescued I wasn’t surprised. Unconvincing voice acting from the voices at the other end of the phone. The part where he asks the lady on the line “how did you know my name?” I thought it was going to be some conspiracy which he was part of. So many red herrings that just left me hanging. They could’ve made the movie so much bigger than it was.

I expected him to be trapped in a box in some sort of lab where they were testing humans ability to survive being buried. Or something more far fetched since the movie seemed like it was headed in that direction. I guess I was looking for something more.
/Spoiler

All in all, the movie wasn’t bad. It wasn’t fantastic either, but it was definitely above average. I really liked the fact that they managed to shoot the movie with just Ryan Reynolds in a box. I don’t think many people could pull that off. Props to the director and Ryan Reynolds for his performance. If you just watch the movie without thinking too much, it should be an enjoyable ride. Just don’t expect too much, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I rate Buried 6/10.

Movie Review: You Again

After watching the trailer for this movie, I kinda expected a decent chick-flick that shouldn’t be too bad. Considering the decent cast of Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis. If you are a guy and find women attractive, this movie is worth watching for Odette Yustman alone. Oh my god, I swear, she is a goddess sent to Earth.

You Again tells the story of Marni (Kristen Bell), a girl who was bullied terribly in high school and blossomed into a successful young lady working for a PR firm in another state. When she goes back to her home state for her brother’s wedding, she finds out that he is marrying her worst nightmare- Joanna (Odette Yustman), the girl who bullied her in high school. It turns out that Joanna has completely changed and is no longer the girl she used to be. Marni refuses to believe it and tries her best to expose Joanna’s past to her family. Hilarity ensues when Joanna’s visiting aunt, Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) turns out to be Marni’s mother, Gail’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) nemesis as well.

An interesting story that is downplayed by the immature gags weaved into the plot. Then again, what did you expect from a movie distributed by Disney? There are also parts of the story which felt like unnecessary fillers. It’s all good wholesome fun that isn’t by any means terrible, but fails to take the comedy into places where other movies haven’t gone before. Besides the unexpected cameo by the Rock in the intro, everything else seemed so scripted and forced. And one of the best gags was shown in the trailer- Gail and Ramona showing up to the wedding dinner in the same dress.

Kristen Bell plays Marni well, and is believable as the bullied high school girl (props to the make up/costume team for doing a great job with her looks as well). Odette Yustman, where do I begin? She is drop dead gorgeous. After only catching glimpses of her in Cloverfield, I haven’t had the chance to see her in any other movie until she appeared as Joanna in You Again. Though I didn’t like how Joanna’s role wasn’t clearly defined throughout the movie. After her introduction, in which she appears to be the perfect angel, her role then changed into somewhere in between evil and not-so-evil. I think they could’ve done a better job in that aspect. Gail and Ramona are played well, and provide some pretty good laughs in the show as well.

All in all, You Again will tickle some funny bones, but you won’t find yourself tearing up and gasping for air. There’s definitely something for everyone. A family-oriented, kid-safe comedy that you could bring your parents to. I’d rate You Again 5/10.

Movie Review: Reign of Assassins

Reign of Assassins tells the story of the Wheel King in search of Bodhi’s, a legendary warrior, remains. With his band of assassins, he attempts to track down Drizzle, an assassin that turned against him and fled with one half of Bodhi’s remains. Drizzle undergoes surgery to change her appearance in order to start a new life in a quiet city, away from her old life. In the process, she falls in love and gets drawn back into the fray of her past. Quite a simple story that was cooked up as an excuse just to spill some blood. If you’re looking for an intelligent, thought-provoking story, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for high-octane, action-packed sword fights you’ve come to the right place.

First off I would like to say, this movie contains sword fights that I’ve never seen before. Drizzle wields a sword that bends and cuts like a whip on a stick. I’m not kidding. It’s so outrageous, it’s actually believable. By the end of the movie I was asking Fuad, “do such swords exist?” I haven’t done any research to find out yet, but it’s definitely something I haven’t seen anywhere. I guess some people might find it ridiculous, but in the context of a fantasy movie, it’s definitely not out of place. The other assassins have tricks of their own as well, but Drizzle’s swordplay was what I found most impressive.

Despite the impressive action sequences, the movie is neither here nor there. At times, it tries to be comedic, with some oddly placed gags during the slow paced parts of the movie, at other times it tries to be deeper than it really is, with the whole eunuch storyline of the Wheel King (that wasn’t fleshed out), and Drizzle’s trying to move on from her past life. Then we also have the element of magic, but only for one character- the Magician. I felt that if they wanted to have magic in the movie, they should have at least let it play a bigger part- by letting more than one character use it, and let the Magician use it more impressively. I mean, in one scene he throws a rope up into the air, climbs it, and disappears into a cloud. That seems like some pretty powerful magic to me. But when he’s fighting against the Wheel King, all he can do is muster up some flames to make his swords fiery. Come on! Why not use more powerful magic in such an important battle? And also- the reason the Wheel King goes through so much trouble for Bodhi’s corpse was not to rule the world, but to restore his ‘manhood’. Wow. I couldn’t have thought of a better reason myself. Why not just get the super surgeon to give you a new one? It sure beats me.

Overall, it was an alright movie- just don’t expect too much beyond brilliant swordplay. A standard popcorn affair. Go in and thrill yourself with the action scenes and forget about it. I’d rate Reign of Assassins 5/10.

Movie review: The Switch

First of all, despite what the poster says (The most unexpected comedy ever conceived), this movie is far from a comedy. Sure it has some funny bits, but it’s so much more like a drama with funny parts thrown in. I went in expecting a rip-roaring comedy, and was sorely let down. Especially after watching The Other Guys the day before. Anyhow, on to the review.

The Switch is about Kassie- played by Jennifer Aniston, a single lady living in New York who can’t find the perfect guy to start a family with. She decides to take things into her own hands by having a baby through artificial insemination. During a party, her best friend Wally (who is stuck in the friends zone), played by Jason Bateman, gets wasted and swaps Kassie’s donor’s sperm with his own sperm, passes out and remembers nothing. Kassie moves back to her hometown to have the child. Seven years pass, and Kassie returns to New York with her son, Sebastian (played by Thomas Robinson). She meets up with Wally again, and he gets to meet Sebastian, not knowing that he is the father of the boy. As they get closer, Wally discovers that he is Sebastian’s father. He is now stuck with the decision of letting Kassie know before it’s too late, but how does he do it?

In this dramedy, laughs are too few and far between. Wally and Kassie don’t seem to have much chemistry, though you can tell that Wally really likes her and wants to be more than “just friends”. The highlight of the show would be Thomas Robinson’s performance of Sebastian. He was such a joy to watch and played his role really well. Jeff Goldbum, who plays Wally’s good friend and colleague Leonard, was also another highlight of the movie. But other than them, the rest of the cast never really shine.

I felt that the movie had an interesting premise for a comedy, but it wasn’t executed well. The lines were barely witty, and there weren’t any memorable scenes besides the one of Wally in the toilet when ‘the switch’ happens. The storyline is pretty bland, and there aren’t enough challenges or plot twists to keep it interesting all the way. I wouldn’t call it a terrible movie, but I think it could have been so much better. It tries hard to be a comedy, but fails at that and ends up as a very mellow drama piece. I’d rate The Switch 4/10.

Gig #58

I’ll be performing this Sunday for Doppelganger’s World Open Mic event. There’s a massive line up for the event, and I’ll be playing the 5pm slot. I’m sure you guys can wake up on time after a night of partying on Saturday :p Come along, bring your friends, download my EP (yes I know I promised you the album art, but it’s been taking a long time to complete), and singalong! And if you haven’t added 2storeyheart on Facebook yet, click here! I haven’t played a big event in awhile, so I’m pretty pumped! Hope to see all you beautiful people on Sunday! <3 Doppelganger World Open Mic
Sunday, October 10 · 12:00pm – 6:00pm
Berjaya Times Square

12.00pm Never Early
12.15pm Illya Sumanto
12.30pm The Tick
12.45pm Halfway Kings
1.00pm Chill pease
1.15pm Fazz
1.30pm Choon
1.45pm Iced Tea
2.00pm Kimmy Kim
2.15pm Til I Die
2.30pm Psytrus and the Third Party
2.45pm Dzamira
3.00pm The Bananas
3.15pm Krony
3.30pm Two Wongs Don’t Make a Wright
3.45pm Works of Reverse
4.00pm C-TEENA BAND
4.15pm Angie Lym
4.30pm Min’z
4.45pm George Wielgus
5.00pm 2StoreyHeart
5.15pm Amirah Ali
5.30pm Ady Suwardy
5.45pm Peter Hassan Brown
6.00pm Local Drug Store

Movie Review: The Other Guys

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star in one of this year’s biggest comedies, The Other Guys. If you’re a fan of over-the-top action comedies (i.e. MacGruber), this is a movie you must NOT miss. The official synopsis is so damn good, I’ll just quote it here:

NYPD Detectives Christopher Danson and P.K. Highsmith (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are the baddest and most beloved cops in New York City. They don’t get tattoos – other men get tattoos of them. Two desks over and one back, sit Detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg). You’ve seen them in the background of photos of Danson and Highsmith, out of focus and eyes closed. They’re not heroes – they’re “the Other Guys.”
 
But every cop has his or her day and soon Gamble and Hoitz stumble into a seemingly innocuous case no other detective wants to touch that could turn into New York City’s biggest crime.  It’s the opportunity of their lives, but do these guys have the right stuff?

Right from the get-go you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. A LOLercoaster ride, that is. I’m trying so hard to think of what to say in this review, but words fail me. The whole movie is just packed with jokes from start to finish, and me talking about them here wouldn’t do it any justice and would probably spoil the experience for you. But I gotta say, it’s one of the best comedies I’ve seen all year. Ferrell and Wahlberg give an outstanding performance and make the best cop couple I’ve seen since Lethal Weapon’s Gibson and Glover.

Everything about the movie is spot on. It might drag a tiny little bit in the middle but after that speed bump, things pick up from where they left off and never lets down. If you like to laugh, you’re in for a treat. You’ll be walking out with a stupid grin on your face, and talking about a certain scene in the movie, which I won’t mention here. Adam McKay, you, sir, are a comedic genius. The Other Guys gets a rating of 8/10.

BTW a lot of movies don’t do this anymore, but there’s an extra scene after the credits you don’t wanna miss.

Movie review: Sammy’s Adventures: The Secret Passage

I went into the cinema not knowing what to expect. Besides the posters I’ve seen around the cinema, I knew nothing about the movie. But from the cute looking turtle on the posters, I expected it to be a movie for kids.

Sammy’s Adventures: The Secret Passage is about a young turtle, Sammy, on a journey to travel around the world, in search of love, and an adventure of a lifetime. Along the way he makes friends, learns about humans, and discovers new places.

There isn’t much to be said about the movie, at least I don’t have much to say about it. The visuals are pretty good- nothing fantastic, and the use of 3D really brought some parts to life (i.e. swimming through the coral reefs, fish and snakes moving towards the screen etc). Sometimes it was a bit too distracting though. But it was a decent attempt at bringing a story to life in 3D.

The story is nothing special. You can tell it was written for kids and will be enjoyed by kids. It would have been great if they used double entendre to make the story appealing to both kids and adults (ala Sponge Bob Square Pants), but there is none to be found here. Good, clean, safe fun. Except for the hippies. I don’t know why or if they were even essential to tell the story, but the whole chapter about the hippies by the beach seemed so out of place. I was just waiting for a hallucination scene to happen! Though sadly, it never did.

The thing that surprised me the most was the voice talent behind the movie. With the most notable performance from Kathy Griffin, even though her character didn’t play a big role in the movie. The rest of the cast sounded alright, suitable for the roles they were playing. But listen carefully for familiar voices used in the movie.

One problem I had with the movie were a couple of irregular cuts, and the use of too many contemporary songs. It made certain parts of the movie feel like some sort of montage music video. Another issue I had was that the problems the characters faced in the movie pretty much solved themselves. The characters didn’t have to do anything on their own. Despite having cute, likeable characters, the movie was very plot driven. It could have been easily replaced with other animals in a different environment, and the same story could have been told. Preaching about the environment in a kid’s movie isn’t a bad thing, but when characters do nothing to solve it, it seems like a waste of screen time.

Overall, the movie was alright. It’s not a must-watch, but I guess if you have kids or you’re a fan of turtles, SA:TSP is right up your alley. At least I didn’t come out of the cinema hating it, unlike Alpha and Omega. I’d rate this turtle movie 4/10.

Movie review: Dinner for Schmucks

When I heard that this movie was based on an older French movie, Le Diner de Cons, I did what anybody else would do- watch the original movie first. So when I was watching the Dinner for Schmucks, I had Le Diner de Cons fresh in my mind and knew what to expect. Firstly, I would like to say that it is not a complete remake of the French movie. Dinner for Schmucks uses the same premise of the original movie and takes it even further.

The movie is about Tim (played by Paul Rudd), an executive who is climbing his way up the corporate ladder. He receives an invitation to a dinner party from his boss that he can’t refuse. At this dinner party, the attendees are required to bring an “idiot” with them to dinner. The person with the biggest “idiot” wins an award and bragging rights in the company. Enter Barry (played by Steve Carell)- a talented but socially inept mouse taxidermist, who takes artistic photographs using dead mice. Tim meets Barry by chance and invites him to be his idiot guest at the dinner party. The hilarity ensues when Barry turns up a day earlier than expected.

Dinner for Schmucks improves upon the original by the inclusion of wittier dialogue- maybe jokes were lost in translation when I watched the French movie, but Dinner for Schmucks had a lot more laugh out loud moments for me. Some parts seemed a little bit forced though- like how Tim injures his back, and Barry pretending to be a movie director on the phone. They could have easily gotten away by using gags from the original movie, but I guess the writers wanted to be a little more clever. The original French movie was set in just one location, the protagonist’s house. Dinner for Schmucks has the cast going all over the place, and even has the dinner party scene which wasn’t in Le Diner de Cons. I thought this was a plus because I curious to what an “idiot dinner” would be like after watching the movie. The blind fencer towards the end might be a little too over-the-top for some people, but drew out the loudest laugh from me in the cinema.

Paul Rudd plays a pretty standard character here, I hope he hasn’t been typecasted as the guy who’s trying to do his job and please his fiancee at the same time. Steve Carell really shines in this movie. Normally I’m not too tickled by his comedies, but here he does the job of playing the idiot well. Barry seems to be a bit cleverer than the idiot in the French movie, but he’ll still have you in stitches.

I didn’t find many problems in the movie besides the couple of forced gags that didn’t really hit the mark. Watch it if you’re- up for a comedy in similar vein of Meet the Parents, a fan of Rudd or Carell, just up for an hour of laughter. Dinner for Schmucks- 6/10.